I remember as a kid traveling through Minnesota (perhaps on Interstate 90 past a town called Blue Earth, I don't recall exactly) by car and anticipating seeing a giant statue of the Jolly Green Giant. It's been a long while since I've seen him on TV; I'm probably not tuned in to the right programming. Anyway, he's definitely an advertising icon I remember from my youth, along with Tony the Tiger (the object of a crush my sister had!), Cap'n Crunch, Toucan Sam, and Smokey the Bear. As I got older, Aunt Jemima's matronly bottle was good company at the breakfast table and she even talked, at least in my imagination. I don't know the Morton Salt Girl's name, but she was my crush in the fictitious world of ad icons (I think it had something to do with the umbrella and the cute baby-doll dress; who walks around in the rain like that, except an adventurous little cutie?).
What's my point here? Well, we know that good storytelling is the key to good brand work and that a great advertisement will linger in your head like a good movie long after it's viewed. It's just that the telling of stories or the audiences who will hear them is more complicated or subtle than it use to be, seemingly. We don't see near as many character icons as we used to in advertising, and maybe that's a good thing. But there is a museum in Kansas City scheduled to open in 2009 that will carry the memories, at least. Long live The Doughboy!